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Unsightly changes ahead on the roads
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MONROE - State roads may look a little different this summer - with more roadkill on them and taller grass along them.

Green County Highway Commissioner Dallas Cecil wants you to know it's not the county's fault.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation's David Vieth says it's not a state budgetary decision, but rather a move "to focus on safety issues."

Wisconsin's counties are paid by the state to perform routine maintenance on state roads throughout the year. County departments take care of such things as mowing grass along the state's highways and picking up dead animals along the roads.

But the state DOT is telling counties to do less of that work. Instead of surveying state roads twice a week to clear dead animals, downed signs or litter, county workers now will inspect the roads twice a month. Litter will be picked up once, in the spring, and grass will be mowed once, in the fall. Vieth said counties were notified of the changes about a month ago.

"There's going to be less service and less maintenance and we want people to know it's because of changes the state has made and not because of the highway department," Cecil said.

Vieth, director of the state Bureau of Highway Operations, said the reductions aren't related to the state's budget shortfall. Rather, it's to focus more on what's important.

"When we have people working for the state we want them to focus on safety issues," Vieth said.

Vieth said surveillance on state roads doesn't need to be done as often because more people call the sheriff's departments or the highway department when they seen problems with signs or animals.

But Cecil said leaving dead animals on roads longer could be a safety issue. And, he said, leaving the grass unmowed won't allow motorists to see deer along the road until it's too late to avoid hitting them.

Vieth disputes that, saying taller grass actually prevents deer crashes. He said studies have shown that deer are attracted to recently mowed areas.

Green County Sheriff Randy Roderick said his department will be able to observe the number of deer crashes this fall to determine if the higher grass along the roads was a factor.

Cecil also said mowing once a year will be harder on the county equipment. He said the mowers will have to mow more slowly because they won't be able to see what's in the grass and mowing taller grass will cause more wear and tear on the equipment.

Vieth said county workers should spend their time looking at road conditions, such a low shoulders.

In addition, the amount of grass cut along the road will change from 15 feet from the shoulder to five feet.

"These are aesthetic things," Vieth said. "They aren't safety issues."